Also on the Ballot…

The debates are finally over and Election Day is less than three weeks away (at last!). But with all the attention devoted, rightly, to the presidential race - to the nastiness of our national discourse, and to the existential question of whether we will be able to come together on November 9th to face our shared challenges as one nation – there are also plenty of other important items on the ballot next month.

In addition to down-ballot races, we in Massachusetts will be voting on four statewide questions, regarding slot casinos, charter schools, animal welfare, and access to marijuana. And while JCRC has not taken a position on any of these questions – as we sometimes do – the outcomes of all these votes are important and merit your investigation (and to learn more about all the candidates and questions in communities across the country, check out BallotReady.Org, co-founded by Aviva Rosman, daughter of JCRC council members Brian Rosman and Rabbi Barbara Penzner).

There is one ballot question this year that we at JCRC have invested in; by supporting and collaborating with synagogue leaders who organize side by side with Christian and Muslim neighbors to pass Boston’s Question 5, the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

As a member of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), JCRC has been working to address the affordable housing crisis in Boston. Our community organizers have heard stories from synagogue leaders whose grown children still live with them because they can’t afford rent in Boston. We’ve heard stories from our neighbors in Boston churches who have lived here for decades, contributing to their local employers, churches and neighborhoods who can’t afford a mortgage and worry constantly about being evicted from their homes when they can longer afford skyrocketing rents.

CPA is a progressive surcharge on property tax that would cost the average Boston homeowner just $24 per year, but would generate approximately $20 million each year for affordable housing, parks and recreation, and preserving historic sites.  160 cities and towns across MA have already adopted CPA as a flexible funding source. Newton, Lexington, Somerville and many others have been beneficiaries of CPA for years, restoring neglected parks, preserving historical community centers and building new affordable rental and homeownership units. In Cambridge, CPA money has been used to subsidize down payments for first time homebuyers. It is an empowering extra source of income for municipalities to do things they might not otherwise be able to.

Nine area synagogues have developed teams of leaders doing get-out-the-vote work, reaching out to Boston voters through their social networks. To date, they have secured over 600 Yes votes for CPA. And that number is growing.

With rare exception, JCRC does not endorse or oppose municipal referendums, and we are not formally endorsing Question 5. We do, however, invest in leaders in our community working in partnership with their neighbors for the betterment of their communities. This model of synagogue organizing is one of our approaches to advocacy that effects policy change. It is also a critical component of how we do community relations, premised in the belief that we have one shared future, as Americans and as residents of our Commonwealth.

We all benefit from healthy, vibrant communities that are accessible and affordable for long-term residents and newcomers. For JCRC and GBIO, the campaign for affordable housing is a key aspect of building our shared society. For our members in Boston, CPA is but one step on a path of actualizing our commitment to being better together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy